Sometime ago, I got the number 30 bus from Hackney Town Hall to the stop nearest to my flat, and as I stepped onto the curb on the road they call Ball, I remember how elated I felt, because finally, after months of Mamma Jones driving me places, taxis and the Patient Transport Service, I had regained some of the independence I lost with myeloma. Many months have passed, over a year’s worth in fact, since that happy time, and I can now without any hesitation that I no longer feel that way when indecently travel. The novelty has well and truly warn off. The adrenaline I felt that day has long been superseded by apprehension. Apprehensive and loathing to be precise.
Now, with the PTS a distant memory, any travel I undertake no longer feels a matter of routine as it should. Travel is an effort. It is an effort for a number of reasons, not least because I have become a lazy bum who loathes strangers, particularly the sort of stranger who does not know what a ‘Priority Seat’ means. It is a bummer, especially now I am getting out and about and attempting to enjoy #londonlife.
I fear the unknown with travel. I fear what will happen if I get tired whilst I am doing it, I fear people bashing me and not letting me sit down, I fear that I cannot always be independent when I am doing it, I fear that my face will not be able to disguise how uncomfortable some seats are for me, I fear falling over and I fear what will happen if my mode of public transport breaking down. These fears go through my head every time I travel and thus it is the reason why my current, preferred and used mode of transport is a black cab. Trust me, taxis are an expensive way to travel, but it saves my precious energy from worrying about being forced into delivering my much mentally rehearsed, vitriolic speech to people who fail to surrender the priority seat when it is needed. The speech by the way is awesome, designed to make the recipient go home and flush their head down their toilet with their mouth open. Sometimes, I admit, it can go too far and include a certain word that is not ladylike and I am working on that. Ignorant norfolkers.
I have had the time to dwell over my ability to travel and I have come up with certain rules to reduce my fear and manage my hatred of humankind and they are as follows:
🚌 Do not travel during rush hour
🚌 Do not leave the flat without my stick
🚌 Do not get on a bus with any form of luggage
🚌 Never go to the top deck of a bus, because you cannot, and on the rare occasions you have done it, you have paid for it instantly and then well into the following day
🚌 Never stand when a vehicle is in motion
🚌 Prior to travel, if concentration is proving impossible and the bagS below the eye have turned a deeper shade of purple, throw money at the problem
🚌 Avoid the aisle seat, as turning corners can really be treacherous when you are sitting next to somebody equally as large as you are
🚌 Always be polite to those under the employment of the travel company, always, and if this includes saying ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ to the bus driver then so be it, it could lead to a free upgrade
🚌 If disaster strikes, ring somebody and talk incredibly loudly about the fact you have myeloma which is a cancer with no cure
Some of these rules are easier to follow than others, and it is on the bus where I find myself becoming a rebel. Not a rebel as such, because in no way, is it enjoyable.
In my mind, buses are the most dangerous and troublesome form of transport and nothing TFL can tell me will convince me otherwise. Buses are dangerous for many reasons, they were dangerous before I knew they were dangerous. If I knew what I know now, in early August 2012, I would never have stood up on a bus as it was breaking and thus I would not have ended up clutching a lamppost on Shaftesbury Avenue crying and too shy to ask the policeman walking past me to call an ambulance. Now, being the know it all I have become, I resist the temptation to stand up whilst a bus is in motion as noted above. Bus drivers, unfortunately, are not privy to my rules, and they frequently drive their big red vehicles before I am safely in my seat. I find this most inconsiderate. At least I have now worked up the courage to tell the person next to me that I will not stand up to let them out until the bus has come to a complete stop; it is always met with confusion. I do not get on with luggage at all because I am not agile and any lifting has to be saved for the train, in the event that I can find nobody to assist me or if the train is busy. That is also a consideration I have and one I faces and flailed today.
My main issue however is with the public. On the buses (and they could be getting a bad reputation because I use them the most), on the train and on the tube… My impression, which of course is skewed, is that people ignore those with a disability, unless you have a visibility disability or a blue rinse. I was once asked to get out of my non-priority seat by a man in front of me in a priority seat to allow an older lady sans stick to sit. I said no. On another occasion, I walked into a bus outside UCLH with a bald head and a large bag saying pharmacy, and asked for a seat and nobody got up. I asked again and nobody got up. More generally I am encountered by competing eyes looking at other like minded seated people, wishing that they win in the competition of whose manners kick in last. It is a headache and one that I fret over again and again. Two years ago, I wager I was one of them. Actually, I was not because I was a top deck sort of gal.
I said once that my life is full of new challenges now, and this my friends is one of the greatest practical ones I have facing me, and it is one that I should face everyday but sometimes, the worry and effort get the the better of me. Home is safe. Taxis are comfortable.
There is one mode of transport of which I would not complain about (apart from pain from sitting and sitting leg room) and for that, I wait with breath that is baited. Seriously though, can somebody please just put me on a plane.
P.S. Some may call this attention seeking. I call it preservation.